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“Slow and steady wins the race” from “The Hare and the Tortoise”

The words of wisdom from fables that were written over 2 millennia ago have permeated into common everyday expressions. Ever heard of “quality, not quantity”? It derives from the fable “The Lioness and the Vixen”; “Honesty is the best policy” from “Mercury and the Woodsman”; “Don’t count your chickens before they have hatched” from “The Milkmaid and her Pail”; “Don’t make much ado about nothing” from “The Mountain in Labour”.

 

Fables or fictional stories are told with anthropomorphized animals illustrating a particular moral lesson. The original volumes were issued by Jean de La Fontaine between 1668 to 1694. The ‘Fables of Fontaine’ is part of classic French literature, consisting of 12 books and 239 fables. They were adapted from fabulists such as Babrius, Phaedrus, Aesop, Horace, Avienus and earlier writers like Clément Morat, Mathurin Régnier and many more. The fables were initially intended for a mature audience but later were adopted by the eductation system to teach children moral lessons.

Jean de La Fontaine220px-jean_de_la_fontaine
[ʒɑ̃ də la fɔ̃tɛn]; 8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) was a famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional languages.

 

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“Le Corbeau Et Le Renard” de Jean De La Fontaine

Maître Corbeau sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard par l’odeur alléché
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
Et bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.

Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le Phenix des hôtes de ces bois.
À ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie :
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit : Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage sans doute.
Le Corbeau honteux et confus
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.

“The Crow And The Fox” by Jean De La Fontaine

Master Crow perched on a tree,
Was holding a cheese in his beak.
Master Fox attracted by the smell
Said something like this:
“Well, Hello Mister Crow!
How pretty you are! How beautiful you seem to me!
I’m not lying, if your voice
Is like your plumage,
You are the phoenix of all the inhabitants of these woods.”
At these words, the Crow is overjoyed.
And in order to show off his beautiful voice,
He opens his beak wide, lets his prey fall
The Fox grabs it, and says: “My good man,
Learn that every flatterer
Lives at the expense of the one who listens to him.
This lesson, without doubt, is well worth a cheese.”
The Crow, ashamed and embarrassed,
Swore, but a little late, that he would not be taken again.

 

To read more fables in French, click here.

 

If you want more….here is a list linking to individual Wikipeida articles of fables with explanation and analysis:

Photo source and information: Wikipédia and short-stories-for-kids.com